Spotlight on High-Leverage Practice 12: Systemically Design Instruction Toward a Specific Learning Goal
Systemically designing instruction, at its heart, focuses on choosing what to teach, when to teach it, and how to teach (Council for Exceptional Children, 2019).
Three critical elements of systemically designing instruction are:
- Setting clear instructional goals
- Logical sequencing of knowledge and skills
- Teaching students to organize content (Council for Exceptional Children, 2019)
An approach to addressing the critical elements of systemically designing of instruction is the unpacking standards that will be taught.
What is Unpacking a Standard?
Unpacking a standard involves teachers taking a deep dive into the content that will be taught. When unpacking, teachers study a standard closely to identify:
- What students need to KNOW: What are the facts, vocabulary, or rules that students need to be successful in this unit? A great resource for helping students learn key vocabulary are the Mathematics Vocabulary Word Wall Cards on the VDOE mathematics webpage.
- What students need to UNDERSTAND: What are the concepts, big ideas, and connections in this unit? The “Understanding the Standard” portion of the Virginia Mathematics Curriculum Framework documents are a good place to start when considering the big ideas for a unit.
- What students need to DO: What should students be able to do and how will they do it? Many of these actions can be found in the “Essential Knowledge and Skills” portion of the Virginia Mathematics Curriculum Framework documents.
- What PREREQUISITES are needed: What prerequisite skills should students have mastered in order to be successful in the unit? Are there any skills that need to be pre-taught or re-taught prior to beginning the unit? Prerequisite skills for mathematics strands and standards can be found by accessing the Mathematics Vertical Articulation Tool.
- What REPRESENTATIONS are used: What manipulatives and visuals can be utilized to build conceptual understanding of the required skills in the unit? The VDOE document, Mathematics Instructional Connections for Physical and Visual Representations, is a resource that provides examples of manipulatives and visuals to assist teachers in connecting physical and visual representations to mathematical content.
- What MISCONCEPTIONS are common: What are common misconceptions that students have when learning the content of this unit? How can the misconceptions be avoided or clarified if they occur? The “Understanding the Standard” portion of the Virginia Mathematics Curriculum Framework documents identifies some misconceptions that students may have. The Nix the Trix guide written by Tina Cardone also identifies common misconceptions that both teachers and students may have when teaching and learning a new mathematics skill.
Setting clear learning goals requires teachers to deconstruct curriculum standards and articulate the conditions under which they hope learning will occur (Council for Exceptional Children, 2019). Unpacking standards using the process above is one way for teachers to get to the heart of systemically designing instruction and facilitating student learning.
Council for Exceptional Children. (2019). High leverage practices for inclusive classrooms. New York: Routledge.